So, first off, your hustle is crazy.
Oh, thank you.
It’s cool watching queer people in the music scene continue to work … to represent and do it well.
I try [laughs]!
Are you from here?
Yeah, I was born and raised in San Antonio … I started at Clark and then my family moved, so I went to Johnson High School.
How long have you been playing violin?
I learned [in middle school], so I’ve been playing violin for about 14 years. My parents have always been really supportive of the arts … They had a record label when I was really little.
What kind of label was it?
It was a lot of different stuff … like, one time, [my father] did a cumbia/tejano project, but he really liked doing hip-hop [and] dance music at the time.
Like house music?
Yeah, he was on the news, I remember, because he was one of the first people to have an in-house studio in San Antonio.
So ever since I was little, there were people just singing and rapping through the house, so I figured I could do it too … And so I think I started with rapping.
How old you were you?
So you were like eight, spittin’ out bars?
Kind of, yeah. I wouldn’t freestyle or anything — my dad would write the lyrics and I would perform … So I started with that and then I got into the Children’s Chorus of San Antonio (CCSA), which is where I work now as their marketing associate. And then I did ballet.
So you did ballet, too?
Yeah, that was was fun. That was the first time I performed on the Majestic Theatre stage … I remember looking down into the orchestra pit and thinking [ballet] is cool, but I kinda wanna be down there.
So I know before we sat down just now, you were having a meeting with one of your projects The Foreign Arm, which is sick, you get to work with Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson.
Vocab’s a huge role model for me. I think I’m really fortunate to have a lot of powerful women as role models in my life … Of course both my parents [have been supportive], but my mom’s been really pushing, even when the rest of my family wasn’t very supportive of [me] focusing on the arts in general during school. Getting to work so closely with Daniela [Riojas], getting to work so closely with Vocab … there were just all these powerful women guiding me along the way.
So speaking of Daniela … you’re in Femina-X, you’re in The Foreign Arm, what other projects are you in right now?
There’s Deer Vibes, and it’s cool cuz I don’t have to plug in [my violin]. I get to just dance in the audience whenever we perform … And then there’s Saturn Skies — that’s a [project] I started with Robert Wilson, a friend from UIW. He was studying music production and engineering, and I was starting music composition. I was a classical kid and he was more the pop music kid and we just sort of merged everything together.
So what’s the sound of that project?
I guess art pop? People have described us as “indie post-folk,” I guess? But some of it’s also really electronic. [Robert] loves Seal, I love Baths … I really like electronics and crazy chords and time signatures, but then telling a good narrative through songs.
How do you find time to do four projects?
It’s also five [including] Arte y Pasión, a flamenco artist collective that I play with and compose for … and that’s really fun. I got to arrange a piece by Mahler for like two instruments. It’s a funny story … Mahler is a Romantic-era composer, so he’s known for having huge orchestras … He has a symphony called The Titan which is for a 200-piece orchestra or something. Stupid stuff. So the main dancer Tamara [Adira] called me and was like, “Can we do this Mahler symphony but [with] just you and a cello and a vocalist?” So I stressed out for a week and figured out a way to do it … It’s nice because I get to use my training in this context and reduce an orchestra down to three people and have it still convey the right idea … I think it’s really rewarding … I had this crisis during my junior year. My degree is [in] music composition … it’s a very classical focus. I was just like, I don’t know if I love the classical world as much as I thought I did. It has its great moments … but there’s a strong sense of tradition that sometimes eclipses doing something new … I realized I needed to broaden myself and not just fit into once place.
So what has been your experience as a queer person of color in genres dominated by cisgender straight white males?
I had to confront very early on that I’m the only black person in this concert hall right now … I had to decide [to] not think about the barriers that are for sure here and … move forward as aggressively as I can, while impressing as many people as I can … Whatever I create is mine. No one can take things from me and I think that’s why my voice may be strong in a lot of the things that I do, because this is me — this is precisely me in this space … and this is how I operate within it.
And what about your experience as a gay person in the indie community?
Consistently, I’m appreciative of the fact that no one makes a big deal of it … If anything, people are just really welcoming of it, like, “Oh cool, another gay guy.” It’s just really comfortable. And I appreciate that cuz it’s just less friction with what I’m trying to do. There’s been a lot of artists in the scene like yourself, Pink Leche, Wayne Holtz, Saakred, Polly Anna … through their presence and their loudness … The fact that they get to be loud and it’s accepted, for the most part, by the general community. That it’s favored and supported in a such a strong way in all places — in public at shows, on Facebook, everywhere they have a very strong circle of people that are committed to them or helping them and supporting them … it makes it really easy for me coming in later to be like … it’s okay for this to be a part of my identity, cuz it is. But that thing where we all seem to feel like we have to hide it for a long time? I don’t have to enter this community that way, and that’s really, really fortunate … I’m really appreciative of the work that’s been done by those who came before me.